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Preface

Preface

Maximum Accessibility tells you how to make the World Wide Web more accessible and more usable for everyone, including over 600 million people around the world who have disabilities. That includes 54 million Americans (almost 6 million of whom are children) and 37 million people in Europe [Bureau of the Census 1997; United Nations 2000]. We’ve written Maximum Accessibility for Web designers, developers, and programmers who create complex, data-driven Web applications; full-time Web masters; folks who manage their departmental Web sites with one hand and do full-time jobs with the other; production managers; people who commission the creation of Web resources for their organizations; people who provide community services in community technology centers, nonprofit agencies, and health care facilities; teachers who want to help students learn and get parents involved in their children’s education; and, finally, anyone who’s interested in creating Web sites that can reach lots of people, showing others how to do it, and helping them understand why.

We assume that you’re involved in some way in creating Web pages. This involvement can take many forms, from creating a personal Web site to building huge sites for Fortune 500 companies to posting occasional updates to a small site for your department or a community organization you belong to. Perhaps you train Web developers or include a unit on Web authoring in a course you teach. If you know something about HTML, the underlying language of the Web, you’ll appreciate our discussions of the way some pages work (or where they break down). But if HTML isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll still find plenty to interest you in the examples we’ve selected and in our explanations of how different aspects of Web design affect people who have disabilities. If you’re familiar with disability issues and have been searching for ways to persuade colleagues, managers, or service providers to address the accessibility concerns you’ve raised, we think you’ll find helpful material in this book. If disability is a new topic for you, Maximum Accessibility is a good place to start.

Maximum Accessibility is divided into two sections. In Section 1 we answer the question, “What is accessibility and why does it matter?” Here you’ll find four chapters that provide a good working definition of accessibility and discuss relevant issues of law and policy, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. You’ll learn about the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 and the Section 508 federal standards and how they apply. You’ll also learn how accessibility awareness can have a positive impact in your community. And you’ll get the information you need to make a strong business case for accessibility to members in your own organization and to your customers.

Interspersed among these chapters are four “user experience” chapters that offer detailed case studies, in readable narrative form, to demonstrate how inadvertent accessibility barriers on major Web sites affect the ability of people with disabilities to successfully locate information, explore our rich cultural heritage, and participate in e-commerce. You’ll learn how specific features make access harder— and how other features can help. You’ll see the accessibility guidelines and standards as they apply to real people using real Web sites.

In Section 2 of Maximum Accessibility, we show you how to use those same guidelines and standards to anticipate accessibility challenges and turn them into good design solutions—solutions that work for all your users. You’ll learn about combining multiple approaches (and multiple media!) to create rich, equivalent alternatives for the content on your Web site. We’ll show you how to write effective text equivalents for audio files and images and how to caption the soundtracks and describe the action of videos and animations so that people who aren’t in a position to hear or see what’s happening on the screen can still follow the important points of what’s being said and done. You’ll learn how to set up data and layout tables that make sense to the ear and the eye, so people listening to your Web site or looking at it on a text-only display will be able to find the information they need and understand what it means. You’ll learn how to design Web forms that people can interact with via the keyboard (or any assistive technology device that translates user input into keystrokes—including voice recognition), and you’ll learn how to label your forms so that people who use talking browsers know what information they need to give you. You’ll learn what you need to do to make scripts accessible to people who don’t use a mouse, and how to decide which multimedia player is best for your purposes and your audience. You’ll learn how you can create simple PDF files that are accessible to people with disabilities. And you’ll learn how to use Cascading Style Sheets to make your pages look great and be accessible!

If you’re new to accessibility, we suggest that you start with Section 1 to learn about what accessibility is and why it’s important. If you’re a Web developer, you may want to read the user experience chapters before moving on to the how-to chapters in Section 2. (We’ve even provided a handy chart to show you which accessibility guidelines and standards are covered in each chapter, so if you’re interested in specific issues, use the chart to follow up.) Managers and others who commission Web sites may want to pay special attention to the chapters on accessibility in law and policy and on the business case for accessibility. Those who teach Web authoring will find the detailed examples and explanations throughout the book especially useful.

Maximum Accessibility has many features to help you learn what you need to know. It offers

  • In-depth coverage of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 and the Section 508 federal accessibility standards for the Internet.

  • Information on building a strong business case for accessibility.

  • Detailed user experience narratives that bring accessibility barriers to life.

  • Best practices in accessible design.

  • Screen shots, screen-reader transcripts, and code examples that provide in-depth understanding.

  • How-to chapters that demonstrate the process of thinking through design problems with accessibility in mind.

  • Up-to-date information about assistive technologies and design techniques.

After reading this book, you’ll become a more valuable resource to colleagues in your organization and to your community. You’ll have up-to-date knowledge of accessibility guidelines and standards and how they apply to your situation. You’ll be able to solve accessibility problems—before users with disabilities point them out! You’ll know how to write accessibility into requirements documents, requests for quotes, and contracts. Your Web sites will provide more satisfying experiences for more people. And you’ll gain insight into one of the most interesting and challenging issues of our time: how to enable people with disabilities to participate fully in and contribute to society.

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